Glacial Gift -Winter 2017

by: Peter Sutters

photography by: Nicole Harnishfeger

Fourteen thousand years ago, Nantucket was a very different place.

Not an island yet, it has been described by geologists as a small rise of hills in an otherwise flat plain of land, covered by a shallow water at times, and ice at others.

Mark Willett, manager of the Wannacomet Water Company, ensures that the island’s well fields will continue to serve the island with pure, fresh water yearround well into the future.

The Earth was getting warmer as the end of the Wisconsin Glaciation Period was approaching.

Up until the end of the last ice age, Nantucket was the most southerly location for the glaciers. As they slowly slid south and reached warmer temperatures, they began to melt. Gravel, pebbles and other stones picked up along the way were released from the ice and piled up into what many of us call home today.

Then it started to get warmer.

As these massive glaciers that created Nantucket were receding to the north, the melt-water began to pool in what is now Nantucket Sound, but what at the time was Glacial Lake Nantucket. Over the years, as the glacier grew and retreated three times, the lake was sometimes covered by ice and at others open to the air.

Water from the lake flowed south through those small hills you can stand on top of today and out to the Atlantic Ocean, which was still miles and miles south from where the waves lap our current shoreline.

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